When late April comes in Oklahoma, the Festival of the Arts still reigns as the grand dame of spring.
But plenty of other belles have joined the festivities over the years, making the last weekend in April one of the most entertaining of them all in the Sooner State.
“There's lots of great nighttime entertainment in Bricktown and all over the place. And I think the festival just adds to that dimension,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which organizes the festival.
“I just think all the activity is good for our city. People support the arts festival and love the arts festival and know its place in the history of our community.”
As the 47th annual Festival of the Arts was wrapping Day 1 on Tuesday, acclaimed singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle and Oklahoma songbird Samantha Crain were taking the stage at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab and the national touring production of “West Side Story” was singing and dancing through the first of eight performances at the Civic Center.
The festival's second day was well underway Wednesday when the Oklahoma City Thunder took on the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. (The series shifts to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.)
“Rising tides lift all boats. Having the Thunder game down here ... we see a huge influx of people from that,” Dolese said. “Then there's just lots of people that want to be downtown. They're just excited about being a part of all the action. I don't see a downside to it at all.”
On Thursday, three-day music festivals launched in the state's two biggest college towns. Just south of Oklahoma City, Norman Music Festival 6 continues through Saturday, offering a free downtown celebration of indie music of all kinds. To the north, the 22nd Annual Calf Fry at Stillwater's Tumbleweed Dance Hall features red dirt and Texas country music, along with deep-fried Rocky Mountain oysters, through Saturday.
“I think any state benefits from having a very, very strong arts and cultural atmosphere. There's absolutely no doubt about that,” Dolese said.
Despite what some might see as rising competition, at least 750,000 people are expected to attend the Festival of the Arts, making it one of Oklahoma's largest festivals, said Stacy Hawthorne, the Arts Council of Oklahoma City's communications director.
“We just keep growing, and I think that's good. It speaks a lot to the amount of support in our state for the creative industry and the arts in general,” she said.
With the arrival of the weekend, the festival will mix with even more entertainment options.
The Barons, Oklahoma City's American Hockey League team, will take on the Charlotte Checkers in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
The best-of-five Western Conference quarterfinal series starts in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Cox Convention Center.
“To have two of our neighbors who are heavily successful in the sports industry both in the playoffs right next door to our event, that's awesome. That definitely says so much for downtown,” Hawthorne said.
In nearby MidTown, the recently revived H&8th Night Market will gather food trucks like Roxy's Ice Cream Social, Taste of Soul Egg Roll and Urban Agrarian along with local bands like Honky Tonk Stepchild, The Waymires and Sonic Violence from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday.
Friday also will see the start of a new monthly event: Final Friday on Film Row, which will showcase visual artists, musicians, dancers and performers of all types from 6 to 9 p.m.
As part of the inaugural Final Friday on Film Row festivities, Individual Artists of Oklahoma will host an opening reception for a new exhibit of Michelle Junkin's modern mixed-media landscapes of Oklahoma.
Appropriately enough, the new exhibit is called “On the Rise.”
“There's so many wonderful things to do in the state of Oklahoma, and the arts festival is one of the flagship events,” Dolese said. “We're just proud to be part of what brings people to Oklahoma.”